Three comfort food casseroles

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My number one elixir for anxiety? Comfort food.

Katie Lee

Sometimes your heart and mind just need a helping of comfort food. I am rediscovering those great dishes of childhood past. Ones that I had cast to the side as a young, professional adult, planning my own meals. I was determined to cook all of the gourmet cuisine found in the Food & Wine, Saveur, and Bon Appétit magazines.

After years of saving those recipes and trying them out, I can’t get past the minuscule amounts of obscure ingredients which I needed to purchase in quantities that just weren’t justifiable to me.

As a wife and mom, I have rediscovered the beauty of a home cooked casserole. Before, it was about the simplicity and ease of making the dish after a long day of work; now it’s all about making a dish that will stick to my ribs and tell me everything’s going to be okay.

Below are three of my favorite casseroles, with my tweaks. Because…I love to not follow directions.

Southern Baked Chicken Casserole

Taken from Food & Wine Magazine, March 2011 print issue.

Okay, yes. This recipe came from Food and Wine. And this one I actually follow pretty much faithfully. Except if I’m missing the bell pepper or decide to use a green one instead…or if we don’t have Tabasco, I use another hot sauce…

Southern Baked Chicken Casserole with Kale Salad

Because I follow this recipe to the tee, and because it’s already typed so nicely by F&W, get the Southern Baked Chicken Casserole recipe here. This is my absolute favorite casserole. The only note I have is that I don’t measure the shredded rotisserie chicken – I just shred a whole rotisserie chicken and use it.

Tuna-Noodle Casserole

Originally from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, copyright 1965.

This is one of my go-to recipes. We typically have some version of this once a week. It is so forgiving if I don’t have a particular item, I can either drop it (*) or easily find a substitute (^), and if I feel like experimenting, it’s easy to make swaps, too.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz egg noodles
  • 1 can tuna, drained and flaked
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup sliced celery (*)
  • ¼ cup diced green pepper (^ frozen green peas)
  • ¼ cup chopped pimientos (*)
  • dash of salt
  • 1 can cream of celery
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1 sleeve of Ritz, crushed

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cook noodles according to directions, drain, cool. Combine noodles, drained tuna, mayonnaise, veggies, and salt. In a separate bowl, blend soup and milk and heat through. Add cheese, mix and heat until cheese is melted. Add soup mixture to noodle mixture. Pour into casserole dish. Top with crushed ritz crackers. Bake for approximately 20 minutes give or take.

Prep hint: Even though the recipe calls for only half of a bag of egg noodles, I boil the whole bag, and after draining and cooling the noodles, I bag half and stick it in the freezer. The next time I make this dish, the noodles just need to be thawed!

Variations: I’ve substituted canned chicken in place of the tuna, cream of chicken instead of cream of celery, used broccoli instead of the peas/peppers, and dropped the pimientos and celery to make a yummy chicken, cheese and broccoli dish.

Treet Asparagus Casserole

Originally from a Campbell’s Cream of Asparagus Soup can label.

Totally modified and reminiscent in some ways of my Mom’s treet casserole. There’s no picture because: A. It’s a four serving dish, B. I didn’t take a picture before sitting down to dinner and C. when I woke up the next morning, all that was left was an empty casserole dish!

Ingredients:

  • 1 can condensed cream of asparagus soup
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ tsp. onion powder
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • fresh cut asparagus (up to 1 ½ cups)
  • 1 can diced Treet/Spam
  • 2 ¼ cups of pasta rings cooked, drained, and cooled.
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cook pasta according to directions, drain, cool. Combine pasta, soup, milk, spices, asparagus, diced Treet, and ½ cup cheese. Mix well and pour into casserole dish. Bake for approximately 20 minutes give or take. Add the remaining cheese and bake for another five minutes.

Notes: They called for cooked, cut asparagus; we used raw, fresh asparagus – about six spears from our garden. We liked the crunch. If you prefer, cook the asparagus before adding to the casserole.

I didn’t grease the pan, but next time I will grease it lightly. The noodles stuck ever so slightly.


These casseroles have been the perfect comfort food – easy to prep and make, with short cook times and a soothing element, both in preparing the meal and consuming it.

A spoonful of any these casseroles allows me to breathe a little deeper, take a sigh and say, “This too shall pass, and we will get through this.”

What is your comfort food?

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